A Tale of Two Futures from Man, Age 122

Article excerpt

ASA Award Winner Harry R. Moody

Imagine that it's the year 2067 and you're listening to the memories of a 122-year-old man talking about what life has been like in the early decades of the 21 st century. That's the fiction used by Harry "Rick" Moody for his one-man show, "Reminiscences of the 2ist Century," a special presentation given at the 2004 Joint Conference of the American Society on Aging (ASA) and National Council on the Aging in San Francisco in April.

At the conference, Moody received the ASA Award, which recognizes an association member who has made outstanding contributions to aging-related research, administration or advocacy. A senior associate at the International Longevity Center, New York City, Moody directs its Institute for Human Values in Aging. Among his books are The Five Stages of the Soul (New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1997) and Aging: Concepts and Controversies, third edition (Newbury Park, Calif.: Pine Forge Press/Sage, 2000). He currently chairs the board of directors of Elderhostel and holds an appointment as adjunct associate of the Hastings Center, Garrison, N.Y., in biomedical ethics.

THE YEAR 2067

Moody was born in 1945 and, if he lived until 2067, would reach 122 years old-that age at which Madame Jeanne Calment finally died in Aries, France. But which world would he recall in his life review? During the special lecture, veteran public radio journalist Connie Goldman assisted by interviewing two different Moodys: Cranky Harry and Super Rick. The world that each reported on could be summed up by Charles Dickens ' opening words from A Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

In his first incarnation as Harry, Moody hobbles on stage, craggy of face, cane in hand and garbed in an old bathrobe. A grim specimen whose body is failing despite longevity, Harry proceeds to tell his interviewer a tale of disasters that began at the end of the 20th century: The stock market collapsed, the war on terror went on for decades and coastal cities were flooded when greenhouse gases ruined the climate. America's aging population only made matters worse. The incidence of Alzheimer's disease reached epidemic proportions, Social Security and Medicare went bankrupt and a war between the generations broke out when Boomers grew old. The longevity revolution became a sorry tale straight out of dire predictions, such as Peter-G. Peterson's 1999 book, Gray Dawn (New York City: Three Rivers Press, 2000), with its gloomy prognosis that "there's an iceberg dead ahead. …